Biodegradable solar panel shields
Nature as a muse
Solar power is definitely an important part of the shift towards more sustainable building techniques. But there are many factors that can dramatically reduce solar panel efficiency. One major challenge is keeping them clean: dust and sand build up on the panels over time blocking sunlight.
Could nature give us a lesson in how to protect solar panels? Professor Jaana Vapaavuori’s research group has been mapping different plants and copying their surface structures into cellulose. Although exotic lotus leaves are often a source of bioinspiration, many readily available household plants, such as the humble leek, offer excellent structural and chemical properties as well. The leek’s leaves are self-cleaning thanks to a creased surface structure and natural wax layer. This combination makes water droplets roll easily off the surface of the plant while washing away dust and dirt. This natural mechanism can be mimicked with a transparent cellulose film.
Biodegradable solar panel shields can be used to protect and clean solar panels, but also to maximise light capture at the right wavelength, to minimize light loss through reflection and to manage light scattering.